Chesapeake Bay Commission Urges Action on Conowingo Dam

The Chesapeake Bay Commission announced in a January 18 press release that Maryland Delegate Maggie McIntosh had been selected as the Commission’s new chair.  Formed in 1980, the Commission is a tri-state agency that coordinates policies and issues regarding the Chesapeake Bay for Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.  The Commission has been heavily involved in ongoing Bay restoration efforts, including the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) requirements.

Delegate McIntosh, who is also the chair of the House Environmental Matters Committee, has previously stated that she believes the sediment and phosphorus pollution issues of the Conowingo Dam must be addressed as part of the TMDL efforts.  She reiterated her commitment to resolving the Conowingo issue in the press release:

“The Chesapeake Bay Commission has a long record of success working on a bi-partisan and multi-state basis to help restore the Bay and its rivers and streams, and I am honored to have been selected to lead that continuing effort,” said Delegate McIntosh. “This year we intend to make the massive sediments which have built up behind the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River a top priority of the Commission. With the dam scheduled to be relicensed in 2014, we want to work closely with Pennsylvania, our federal partners and Exelon, the dam’s owner, to find and implement a practical solution to the sediment problem, which poses a serious threat to the Chesapeake and its living resources.

Chairman McIntosh and the Commission’s vice-chairman followed up on her initial statements by  submitting letters to both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on January 25.  The letters called on FERC to address the Conowingo Dam’s sediment issues as part of the Dam’s current relicensing process and for EPA to also become engaged in the issue.  From the letter to FERC:

The FERC has an important responsibility under the Federal Power Act and the National Environmental Policy Act to evaluate the environmental impacts of its proposed action, ensure that the project avoids or minimizes any possible adverse environmental effects, and ensure consistency with federal and state comprehensive plans for improving, developing, or conserving a waterway or waterways affected by the project. Since the Conowingo reservoir behind Conowingo Dam will reach storage capacity during the term of the proposed new license, the management of the sediment captured by the Conowingo Dam must be addressed during the current re-licensing process.

From the letter to EPA:

We write on behalf of the members of the Chesapeake Bay Commission (CBC) to encourage the EPA to assist its federal, state and local partners in addressing the massive amount of sediments that have accumulated behind the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River. …

 As the lead federal agency focused on water quality in the Chesapeake Bay restoration, EPA can provide valuable leadership and support to its partners in both the re-licensing and sediment management study process currently underway.

 Specifically, EPA can help to ensure that:

    •  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has the resources and tools necessary to complete its study.
    • The sediments behind Conowingo Dam is a top priority in the relicensing process and that the FERC includes provisions for addressing the issue in any new license issued for the Conowingo Dam;
    • All the agencies in the Federal government are working together in partnership with the states to address the sediment problem and achieve our common goal of restoring the Chesapeake Bay.
    • Addressing the sediments behind Conowingo Dam is considered a high priority in the TMDL 2017 Mid-Point Assessment

As previously reported on Conduit Street, MACo supports efforts to have the Conowingo Dam issue resolved as part of the FERC relicensing process and appreciates the work of the Commission on this issue.

Conduit Street article on Conowingo Dam

Chesapeake Bay Program Background Sheet on Conowingo Dam

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.